Sunday, October 19, 2014

How to Survive a New York Winter { A Californian's Guide }

Winter is coming...

I don't mean to get all Game on Thrones on you, but the thought of a New York Winter can be really daunting to someone who has never really been through a real winter. Before moving to New York, all my "winter" clothes were cute jackets and boots that helped me look on trend with the season but not to shield me from cold harsh winter. Why I thought I needed gloves living in the Bay Area, I will never know.

Having survived 3 New York winters and the Polar Vortex now, I feel like I need to help fellow winter newbies out. It's not all snowflakes and hot coco, guys. Here's my list of Winter Essentials that might seem like common sense to those who know, but a complete mystery for those who don't.

1. Long Puffy Jackets. Okay, this first one is obvious. But it's the details that matter the most.
  • First, you MUST get a jacket that will cover your bum. Short jackets might be cute, but you need a long one so that you're not freezing your ass off (as much).
  • Windproof is essential. On snowy days, it's not the temperature that's going to get you, it's the wind speed.
  • Waterproof, because when snow hits you on a warm-ish day, it turns into water.
  • A hood, 50% of your body heat escapes from your head when it's not covered. COVER IT!
  • Bonus points if there is a scrunchy sleeve where your hand is so wind doesn't travel upwards.
  • Popular winter jackets brands: Zara, Canadian Goose (pricey), North Face, Woolrich.
  • If you're getting a wool jacket for winter, make sure you check the % of wool it is on the tag. The higher the percentage, the warmer you'll be.

2. Snow boots w/ warm socks. When it's snowing outside, your regular boots aren't going to cut it. Please don't end up in this Huffington Post roundup, "These Photos Of New Yorkers Slipping And Falling On Fifth Avenue Will Make You Want To Stay Inside".
  • Wellington boots such as Hunters are a super popular option for snow boots because it has great grip and usually made with one piece of rubber so that there are no leaks. Most of my friends in NY own Hunters and it's what I've been using for the past 3 years.
  • Sorel has been making really great snow boots and they look more like a regular boot so would be great for every day wear. 
  • Keep in mind that a day of snow turns into a week of ankle-deep slush. Also, most sidewalks are covered in salt to help melt snow and therefore your cute leather boots will definitely get ruined in this lethal combo.
  • Speaking of footwear, Hunters makes very cute fleece socks that lines their boots for those extra cold days. Thin ski socks are also great to help you keep warm on regular days.
  • Don't wait until it snows to buy boots. Friends from last winter waited too long and couldn't find any weather appropriate shoes ANYWHERE, not online, not in stores. You've been warned.

3. Uniqlo Heat Tech Everything! There will be days where you want to layer up on pants, and the leggings from Uniqlo goes great under jeans. It's thin enough to not feel bulky under anything you wear, but it really does work to add some extra warmth to your outfit. Consider buying some camis, long sleeve shirts, etc etc.

4. Gloves w/ Touch Screen. You need directions, but you have gloves on. Should you... take off your glove and freeze, or just buy a pair of gloves that allows you to use your touch screen phone. This one is a no brainer. As an alternative, I've also found success in mittens that opens up to fingerless gloves. BTW, mittens are great because you can use body heat to warm your fingers with its neighbor. 

5. Hats w/ Ear Cover. When J first bought me a Woolrich Aviator hat, I laughed at him. Like, silly J, why would I ever wear a hat like that? And then winter came, like real winter (not the wimpy winter we had in 2011 and 2012), and I wore that hat every day. It kept my head and ears warm, I was such a happy camper. Who's laughing now? If this winter is going to be anything like last year's, this is a must.

6. Wool Infinity Scarfs. The bigger the better. Even better if you can cover your face with it, because there will be days where you want to be walking around Manhattan like a ninja, everything covered except for your eyes. That's how you will keep the warmest.

What are some of your Winter Essentials? Any tips for our winter newbies out there?

Friday, October 17, 2014

NYC: Le Bernardin, a Seafood Chef's Tasting

First, how beautiful and delicious does this caviar and king fish dish look? As if caviar on top of a fresh piece of sashimi wasn't good enough, Le Bernardin adds to the decadence of it all by completing the dish with a lovely marinière sauce (think butter + shallots). After I was done savoring every bite of the dish, I continued to eat every ounce of that sauce on the plate with bread as my vehicle of choice.

Oops, is that not appropriate behavior at a 3-Michelin star restaurant? #noshame here ... I swear the Saucier who makes these drops of heaven is really the one who helped Le Bernardin secure their final 3rd star. Because. ALL the sauces of the night just helped elevate the dishes from good to great, and prompted me to virtually "lick" all my plates clean (with bread).

Anyway, back to the beginning. A few months ago, J's parents came to visit NYC and since Le Bernardin was on the top of our lists of places to go in 2014, we decided to make it an occasion for a nice meal together. As it turns out, this was the perfect choice for a wonder 3-Michelin star place for them to try.
It begins with the amuse bouche, my favorite was the soup. I wonder how I can make soup like that at home, I just wanted to drink endless amounts of it, a tiny cup was just not enough.

At Le Bernardin, you have the choice of a 4-course prix fixe ($135), a 7-course Le Bernardin Tasting ($155), or the more expensive 8-course Chef’s Tasting Menu ($198). From what I understand, it doesn't seem like the menu changes much at all. I'm looking at the menu again six months later and it's exactly the same.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Roasted Pepper and Caramelized Onion Confit

For the past few weeks, I've been getting tons of red peppers and onions from my CSA and have been trying to figure out what to do with them. When I came across this recipe for a confit of pepper and onions, I knew I had myself a winner. The ingredient list was short, the cooking method was relatively easy and it served multiple purposes so that I wouldn't have to eat too many meals of the same thing.
You can use this confit on top of crusty bread. In an omelette. Add it on top of a protein. In a sandwich. Mixed into pasta sauce. Pretty much anything you might put caramelized onions on.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Best Bites of Italy: Rome, Venice, Florence and Cinque Terre

I love all Italian food - pastas, pizzas and gelato - oh my! So imagine my pure bliss during the ten days J and I spent eating our way through Italy!

I've been asked what my food recommendations are for these cities, so I've consolidated all of those here in this Best Bites of Italy series. In this edition, we'll be looking at Rome, Venice, Florence and Cinque Terre. I've also include links to each of my blog post elaborating on why each place was so awesome!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

NYC: YUJI Ramen, a Ramen Omakase in Pictures

My friend Pauline is a true ramen lover. She has a mission to try and document as many ramen places as possible in New York City. She's the one who introduced me to YUJI Ramen which started as a stand at Smorgasburg, held a short residency at the Whole Foods at Bowery, and now making a splash in Brooklyn by serving ramen out of the restaurant, OKONOMI.

When she invited me to the new omakase that YUJI Ramen was hosting, I was definitely intrigued. I've been to the YUJI Ramen at Whole Foods a few times and quickly fell in love with Chef Yuji-san's mazemen ramen - basically a broth-less variety. The few different dishes I tried at Whole Foods were wonderful, the ramen noodles acted as a base for all kinds of delicious toppings. My favorite was their Bacon & Egg ramen. Essentially the bacon fat was rendered down to coat the noodles, along with a creamy soft poached egg. A Japanese version of a classic Italian carbonara on perfectly al dente ramen noodles - basically it's heaven.
The Whole Foods location also had an elusive omakase that I kept reading and hearing about, but there was no way for me to track down how to get a reservation for it. $40 for 5 courses of different innovative uses of ramen dough including a ramen uni ravioli... drool.

Anyway, fast forward to July when Pauline found out about Yuji's move to Williamsburg. They were doing a soft opening and you can buy out the whole restaurant by booking the omakase for a group of 8 people - yes, it's that tiny. The omakase $100 per person, and for a ramen tasting, that sounds a little steep. But, curiosity killed the wallet so we went for it.

So what could possibly be served in a multi-course ramen tasting? Good thing I took some pics for you to check out...